Should I Feel Guilty for Taking My Kids to the Circus?


circusA few weeks ago, I received press tickets to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. My kids were thrilled, we had an OK time (ruined more by my children's meltdowns than anything to do with the circus), and we were all impressed by the daring feats of strength and will. But then I started to hear about how circus animals are treated and I started to feel horrifically guilty.

Animal rights activists describe circus animals with teeth broken from constantly gnawing on their cages. The say some of the exotic animals get infected feet from standing in their own excrement for extended periods of time. Fabulous.

It isn't the part of the show I want the kids to know about when they're exclaiming over elephants and loving the tiger show. On the other hand, we do a lot of things that are less than kind and I am not exactly a lover of the PETA mentality. So what's a good mom to do?

Well, the first thing to do is research, obviously. Is this true? There are many PETA-like sites that say it's true and many lawsuits alleging it. But this animal cruelty charge doesn't seem to be covered by major investigative journalists. So, if it's true, it isn't being well publicized. Also, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus denies it.

Obviously no one is going to admit to abuse, but the message to me is this: Until something is proven to me and I can no longer see any doubt that it's true, then I will do what I want, and if that means going to the circus, then that's what it means. As far as I am concerned, PETA isn't a credible source. I hate them so much that if they back a cause, I might even choose to do the opposite just because they're so awful.

But PETA isn't the point. Really, this is more about the choices we make for our kids and outside influences. There will always be a reason not to use disposable diapers or take our kids to the zoo or feed them non-organic strawberries or too much sugar.

Of course, these things give me pause and I wonder and I research, but to the best of my knowledge, it's OK to take my kids to the circus. They had fun. I had fun and the whole thing was a good night.

If later I find out that PETA was right, I will probably stop going. But until The New York Times covers actual abuse, I am going with tradition and fun.

Do you ever feel guilty about things you do with your kids?



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zandh... zandhmom2

My kids are 16 and 11 and I have never taken them to the circus.  Rather any real abuse can be proven, I have never agreed with using animals in circus shows.  That is NOT their purpose in life and I find it ridiculous and cruel.  It's not because I am a PETA supporter, it's just that I have more respect for animals than that.

Kritika Kritika

Yes you should feel guilty about going. Your kids will survive not going to the circus - I did my sisters did and many of my friends did.

jagam... jagamama0710

No you should not feel guilty. Moms make themselves feel guilty enough without people telling them they need to feel guilty for taking their children out for a fun evening.

I am wary of the circus so I haven't taken my children yet. I certainly won't call another parent out for taking their kids though. However, I do not ever feel guilty for taking my kids to zoos or aquariums, even though I've seen people say it's so horrible omg. I agree with you on PETA completely. Nutjobs.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

So until there is overwhelming evidence that something is wrong you choose to pretend that it's OK? What if there was a little bit of evidence that a teacher hit your kid? Would you just keep sending them to school until they came home with broken bones and a surveillance tape? How about if a neighbor told you that there had been several reports of food poisoning at a local restaurant. Would you avoid it or just keep eating there until you saw the story in the Globe?

There are numerous sources that say that circus animals are mistreated, not just PETA. There are several circuses that feature no animals or only domestic animals like dogs because they believe that keeping exotic animals locked in tiny cages is cruel. If half the industry refuses to participate in a practice isn't that a clue that it's bad practice? Frankly I think it's common sense that exotic animals that would roam huge areas in the wild should not be kept locked in tiny cages. You are allowing yourself to be swayed by the sparkles and bright lights. If you went backstage when they weren't putting in the show you might find yourself more capable of being objective and you wouldn't even have to question whether you should be supporting such a business.

Lucre... LucretiaMcEvil

You all do know that "Water for Elephants" was a novel, right?

I just thought I'd mention that.

Craft... CraftyJenna


Not every circus abuses their animals. Peta and many groups like it are not above exaggerating and flat out lying.

Dontribi Dontribi

I love the circus!  As soon as my kids are old enough to semi sit still in the seats they will be going to.  With this day in age of all the technology you can't tell me someone wouldn't have posted something on youtube with their respective iphones showing this alleged abuse.  Sure people view abuse differently. For example I train my dogs with collars that give them a shock.  Some people find that cruel and abusive.  I don't. It stops my dog from running in the street and getting killed by a car (happened to two of my other dogs and I don't want that to happen again).  Fence didn't stop them but electricity does!  But I guess you peta lovers would prefer that over a little shock.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I haven't been to a circus in a hundred years, but I'd take my son if I had the opportunity.

However, I am a HUGE fan of the Iditarod. PETA have been all over that race for cruelty to animals. Ghastly stories of dogs dying in their traces and being dragged along by the other dogs, or of mushers beating them to "get them to run better".

Does that mean that I will never watch another Iditarod, that I won't cheer for my favorite mushers, and cry when the Red Lantern is extinguished when the last team crosses that line in Nome? No. Why?

Because I know mushers. I know people who work Iditarod. Are there isolated incidents of abuse and cruelty? Unfortunately, yes. But the majority of the mushers not only treat their dogs well, they consider those dogs to be a part of them. The dogs' welfare comes first, always. Watch the race. See them when they come into the checkpoints. What happens? The mushers care for the dogs first, making hot food and checking feet for sores. Spreading out little piles of hay for the dogs to bed in. Only when the dogs are fed, medicated (if necessary), and settled, do the mushers consider caring for themselves.

I use this example because I think that most "animal people" are the same way. These animals are not only a "meal ticket", they are their friends, pets, companions. Even the most working-animals among them. And I think that, for the most part, those that abuse will be shunned and vilified, if not put out of the industry, by their peers.

fave82 fave82

i will never take my children there. it's sad and depressing that those animals are basically enslaved and put to work. i feel that there is a huge difference between the circus and zoos and aquariums.. while the animals there are in a simulated environment they're not forced to perform trips and then crammed in a cage to travel long distances for our entertainment. they're at least able to live a semi realistic life and i think they're serving a purpose of promoting the love and respect of animals to all. we can witness natural behaiors and not them balancing on a ball. plus, the animals are so well cared for and are helped in terms of breeding when need be.

fave82 fave82

*tricks not trips

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